Amazon Illegally Harvested Kids’ Data Via Alexa-Powered ‘Smart’ Speakers

According to reports by Politico and Bloomberg, Amazon illegally harvested kids’ data via Alexa-powered ‘smart’ speakers.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) plans to sue Amazon over allegations the company illegally collected and used children’s data via its Alexa-powered smart speakers, according to reports by Politico and Bloomberg.

Citing individuals familiar with the issue, the two media outlets said the FTC recommended filing a complaint against Amazon on the basis that the collection of data from children under age 13 violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA).

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) may file the lawsuit on the FTC’s behalf as early as next month, Bloomberg reported.

The FTC is obligated to first refer its complaint to the DOJ’s civil division, which will then have 45 days to bring a case, according to Politico. If the DOJ declines to sue, the FTC can then opt to proceed on its own.

This potential lawsuit comes four years after several advocacy organizations, including the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (now known as Fairplay) and the Center for Digital Democracy, filed a complaint with the FTC against Amazon, citing two products: the Echo Dot Kids Edition and FreeTime (since rebranded Kids+).

The news also comes amid a push by the FTC to target Big Tech firms for a range of alleged anti-competitive practices.

According to the 2019 complaint, Amazon held onto voice recordings indefinitely and also kept children’s personal data — even after users attempted to delete it.

The groups also claimed Amazon did not properly inform parents regarding the exact information it collected from children, did not include a privacy policy and did not verify that it had parental permission to collect data.

Following the submission of the complaint in 2019, Amazon claimed the two products in question were compliant with COPPA, Bloomberg reported.

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